Liam Neeson isn’t the first person that springs to mind when talking about action movies but he’s a great actor with plenty of on screen presence and I was hopeful that Taken would deliver. The film starts out pretty well, we learn about Neeson (ex-government agent of some kind) and his relationship with his ex-wife and 17 year old daughter. Neeson is clearly paranoid and his ex-wife is maybe less protective of her daughter than she should be, so neither of them are perfect. His daughter is planning a trip to Paris with her slightly older friend, they tell Neeson they’re staying in one place but the reality is they’re following a band on tour. He finds out, but she still goes.
Once in France however, it’s clear her friend has slightly less concern about their safety than maybe she should and within moments they’re both kidnapped. There’s no real spoiler here, the whole premise of the movie is that Neesom’s character has to locate his daughter, everything up to this point has really been about setting your expectations of him as a father and an action hero.
The pace quickens immediately from this point onwards, with Neeson telling his daughter’s captors that he has ‘certain skills’ and that he will find them. You get the impression that these skills will be stealthy, investigative, assassin-like . It turns out he’s just good at killing people with guns and running around. The first big let down of the film is that Neeson isn’t that believable, not because of his acting but because the character isn’t that well written. He’s too blundering, too reliant on luck, too emotional. Yes, he’s trying to save his daughter but he’s a man of steel and iron and if he can’t control his anger at the critical moment then what kind of government agent was he? The second let down is that there’s no twist. None. The movie starts at A, moves through the alphabet and arrives and Z.
All that out of the way – it’s a half decent action thriller. The scenes are well played, there’s a small amount of tension as Neeson gets closer and closer to the men who have his daughter, and there’s a couple of moments where we see what might have been with a better written hero. Maybe Bourne spoiled us all but in his shadow Bryan Mills (Neeson’s character) just looks like a thug.
I would have liked to see more skulduggery, and more involvement from his former team members (they get a small intro at the start). Taken is a simple movie without complexity or concern for detail, it’ll probably entertain you for 93 minutes but you may soon wonder what you just did and where those 93 minutes went.